Drive to the West Loop on any given night and peer into the white minimalist box at 619 West Randolph. No matter the time of year, you will find the little room full of laid-back, well-dressed urbanites who seem to be having an absolutely splendid evening. No restaurant in this city has managed to remain hip for as long as Blackbird. Thomas Schlesser’s stark yet timeless décor has much to do with it, but the partners—Paul Kahan, Donnie Madia, Eduard Seitan, and Rick Diarmito—could teach a master class in how to stay relevant. Year after year, they have surrounded themselves with smart and creative people in the kitchen, behind the bar, and in the dining room. The result? Extraordinary meals with a distinctive rhythm and allure.
The latest star in this firmament, chef de cuisine Ryan Pfeiffer, worked his way up through the ranks and continues Blackbird’s tradition of procuring the finest local ingredients and presenting them in brilliant yet minimally manipulated ways. That means simple, balanced combinations such as a flaky grilled sturgeon with smoked pork, fava beans, and pickled alliums. If history is any indication, Pfeiffer will eventually move on, as have previous Blackbird chefs Michael Sheerin (who went on to Trenchermen) and David Posey (now at Elske), but Blackbird’s excellence will no doubt endure.